/ Food & Drink

Are you for or against GM food?

Different coloured peas in a pod

Do you know when you’re eating food from GM crops – and do you try to avoid it? If so, you may be unhappy to hear that the EU is relaxing its rules on the import of GM in animal feed…

I’ve never worried much about genetically modified (GM) food. When I was at uni and Safeway started selling GM tomato puree I was more concerned about how much it cost than what was in it.

But when I put my concerned consumer hat on, I think GM in the food chain should come down to three key things: is it safe; do we know we’re eating it; and can we make informed choices about it?

Relaxed rules on GM

I read the other week that the EU is relaxing its rules on the import of non-approved GM in animal feed. This will allow up to 0.1% of non-approved seed in imports.

That doesn’t sound like much, but consider that last year the EU imported 33 million tonnes of approved GM soy for animal feed – that means 0.1% is 33,000 tonnes – which is quite a lot.

GM crops have been grown on over a billion hectares worldwide since 1996. That’s bigger than China or the US! And the Daily Telegraph found that every UK supermarket stocks dairy and meat from animals fed GM soy.

GM polarises people

So, there’s no getting away from GM, but I find the issue tends to polarise people, and ‘never the twain shall meet’.

The way I see it, the ‘Yes’ people advocate the necessity of GM food to deal with an ever-increasing global food crisis. Rising population, severe weather conditions and political instability all have an impact and the ‘Yes’ camp believes GM could be the saviour of starvation.

How? By modifying crops to grow in challenging conditions, be more resistant to pests and disease, or even to increase their nutritional value.

But then there are the ‘No’s’. They focus on the dangers to us and the environment. They talk about safety risks, environmental impact and the limited evidence of how GM can deal with a global food crisis.

What’s on the label?

Often, I don’t even know if I’m eating GM food. I should, because since 2004 it’s been law that food from a GM source must be labelled (but not if they’re produced with GM technology or animals fed with GM feed). I guess I don’t feel worried about it so I’m just not looking for them anymore.

And here’s the rub. GM could be a good thing, or it could be bad. But it is here so we need to deal with it. At Which? we’ve been – and will continue – putting pressure on government to ensure it is safe, both for us and for the environment.

We also want labelling in place so people can make their own choice about whether they want to eat it or not. Plus, we’re calling for safeguards to ensure non-GM crops are not contaminated by GM – otherwise choosing just becomes Hobson’s choice.

I’m still not entirely sure what I think about GM products (though the ‘No’ camp does seem to have much more fun pictures – just google Frankenfoods). What about you – which camp are you in?

Sophie Gilbert says:
11 March 2011

I’m definitely in the “no” camp. I think that the the dangers to us and to the environment do exist, and GM as saviour of starvation is just fighting the flames but not switching off the gas. I realise that it’s easier to say than to do, but we have to stop reproducing at the rate we do.

Anonymous says:
11 March 2011

Or perhaps reproducing is not the problem, but corporate greed is? There is plenty of food on the planet! How much of it ends up burnt or in landfill is on the public record… How much of the food produced each year is wasted? HALF !


Sophie says:
13 March 2011

Agreed, corporate greed is a problem, but it is a problem as well as reproduction, not instead of it, and as well as distribution, and corruption, waste, and much more… I still think GM is not the solution.

Anonymous says:
11 March 2011

“The way I see it, the ‘Yes’ people advocate the necessity of GM food to deal with an ever-increasing global food crisis. Rising population, severe weather conditions and political instability all have an impact and the ‘Yes’ camp believes GM could be the saviour of starvation”

This would be so, except for the fact that most GM food is heavily controlled by it’s genetic makers in such a way that it’s seed is dead and cannot produce future generations of itself. The theory is wonderful, but the reality is that the corporations that control the distribution of GM products are still only in it for the money and have no real intention of feeding anybody or ending any food crisis.

One thing that fascinated me was that in Haiti, what with all their woes, they still took courage and refused an offloading of dangerous GM crops delivered by Monsanto earlier this year. If only we more comfortable people took that same level of courage.


Best wishes,


I’m against GM food – there is insufficient safeguards against wild life contamination. – The Monarch Butterfly is already showing deformations due to foodplant contamination. It is a con –

The producers either produce sterile plants or refuse permission to allow farmers to use the seeds.

The problem of a food crisis can be easily solved – reduce populations of humans by sterilisation and contraceptives – or by withdrawing medical facilities – I support the former.,

Then maybe the wildlife populations would have room and time to stabilise their populations rather than see them constantly being exterminated.

The number of British Butterfly species has halved in 50 years – and the number of specimens in surviving species decimated.

With all the noise about Genetically Modified Crops, Has there been a confirmable adverse reaction to the use of such crops in meals, a made in an ordinary way?
How many years have Genetically Modified Crops been grown in USA and what adverse incidens have been noted? I thought the need for more efficient use of Farm Land was the way to go, but why the blockage? I used to grow loads of veggies in my garden in Zimbabwe, years ago, using F1 Seeds; wrere these a precurser to GM Seeds? I found bugs did not need to be treated and the flavour was all the better without the DDT and other nasties to control them. The crops were generally bigger too, even if the seeds cost more the “ordinary” seeds; more product with less seed.
I look forward to better reporting of 2011 Farming Methods worldwide – and the reduction in Localised Starvation.
In Retirement, I buy all my veggies from Tesco and Sainsburys etc ad care not a bit about where it comes from, except that I smile when I see it is from a British Farm!

Graham Redman says:
5 May 2011

If you are prepared to inject your child with a minute amount of a foreign organism in order to give him or her immunity, then you are pro-GM. Genetic Modification is a controlled way of giving crops immunity, just like you do with your own children.

The alternative to genetic modification is randomly blasting crop DNA with radioactivity until a positive mutation is achieved for plant breeders to isolate.

I simplify, but that’s it in essence.

I am anti-GM. I am fed up with people mucking about with our food in order for them to make immense profits. Anyone who is forced to read labelling due to allergy/sensitivity or other health choise will know our food is already manipulated by addition of water, salt, sugar, wheat flour and preservatives, so that less of the actual food item can be put into the product and therefore cost less to make (although this is not necessarily reflected in the price). Food technology it seems to me, is primarily to make profit, not a nutritious end product. It is part of a food “industry”. The result of this is that it is becoming impossible to make an informed choice about what food we eat, because labelling is insufficiently clear. I want to know if I am eating tomatoes which have been crossed with the genes of a mouse. We hear nothing now about irradiation of food, but I daresay that this is continuing and yet I never see a label relating to this.

The organic food movement has been a thorn in the side of the food industry. The danger of GM crops is that they contaminate everything else. There is no barrier or fencing around fields which will keep out the breeze, or pollinating insects, or beetles etc. If this is allowed, then we shall no longer have any choice at all because nothing will be grown without contamination and there will be no way we can go back.

If people want to eat irradiated, additive ridden, GM foods I have no objection to them doing that, but I want to know that I have the freedom of choice not to be forced to eat this stuff myself.

Vanessa says:
23 October 2011

An issue to consider is seed copyright. I just rewatched food inc. in the USA Monsanto have the copyright on GM soya and it seems they have been very heavy handed with the farmers do we really want to see that here in the uk?

I totally agree Vanessa – This shows how they behave – and they haven’t even really started yet. Due to its predatory nature, I would imagine Monsanto’s ambition is to “own” the majority of food on the planet. This is similar to what has happened with oil, all of which is in the hands of global companies and a few very rich people.
But this is even worse than oil – we all have to eat. Just occurred to me – what if the people in Monsanto are the same as the oil companies ? Will it be drinking water next ? Now I’m really scared…

Much later; I think the Hype over GM treated crops is Balony! How long have seeds been “manipulated” by Seed Laboratories world-wide? In Zim. I dealt with one of the seed producer companies who worked with and developed local seed manipulation – for increased output with reduced need for Pesticides. How does this differ from the “nortorious” picture of GM Manipulation?
I repeat, have there been any reports from injury or illness sustained from ingesting meals made with such materials? I would urge a filteration of people with a predisposed alergy to “ordinary” veggies.
The nett report may make interresting reading.